“Pikmin 3 is beautiful, well designed and seriously fun – although I wouldn’t say this is the game to save the Wii U. Most games feel like they are developed for the jaded gamer in all of us – bigger and flashier must mean better! Pikmin is subtle and sweet, allowing you to see the world from new perspectives. Plus you get minions; what more could you want?”
Pikmin 3 begins with a crash landing, leaving Alph, Brittany and the Captain Charlie separated and lost. After a brief tutorial as Charlie, you begin playing as Alph. Gameplay revolves around exploration and fruit acquisition. Over the course of your story you are reunited with your crew members, and eventually gain access to five different types of Pikmin – little flowery creatures- each with their own unique powers and traits.
Pikmin don’t feel particularly expendable in this game – after a ridiculously bad day when I accidentally killed a bunch of them, Charlie observed a moment of silence during the end-of-the-day comment log. Plus, the sound they make when they die is just too sad. I’m not saying I really cared about them or forged an emotional bond, but it was sorta sad when they’d die, especially when it was because of my own idiocy.
Exploration takes place on four main maps, with a fifth map that is a pure quest/final boss/epic Pikmin death-maze. Each area has unique characteristics, letting you use your new Pikmin to discover all kinds of horrifying bosses, enormous fruit, and hidden pathways. I particularly enjoyed the way fruit is named when you get it back to your space ship for analysis – white grapes will forever be Dawn Pustules to me.
You don’t have endless time for exploration, though. Each 15 minute day needs to be used wisely – you will drink a bottle of juice at the end of the day, so it’s important to gather more than you will need for the day in case you don’t find anything the next day. Pikmin that are left behind at the end of the day will be killed by nocturnal predators, so you may need to send one or two of your crew to go round up any stray Pikmin. This helps to give the game a sense of pacing and excitement that might not otherwise be present with simple exploration and scavenging.
I played the game using Wii-mote with nunchuk rather than the GamePad. The controls on the GamePad were clunky and hard to control, whereas the wand was precise and intuitive. While I enjoyed having the GamePad for my map and to send crew around the area (so much multitasking), it just didn’t feel as integrated into the game design. Sure, I could hold the GamePad up to take a picture if I wanted, but why would I want to take a picture? It just seemed like having a tablet on the side for ease of map viewing (and finding my stray Pikmin), rather than an integral part of the game. In fact, when my GamePad needed a charge (because you know the battery life isn’t really ideal), I was still able to play the game with minimal difference.
The story mode is fantastic and engaging, but the game also offers missions and “Bingo Battle”. As you might assume, the missions allow you to focus on fighting or gathering – you need to gather or kill a certain amount to achieve bronze, silver or gold medals for each mission. Bingo Battle is an awesome two player addition. One player uses the Wii-mote while the other uses the GamePad while they try to complete unique bingo cards of fruit and enemies that need to be collected. Plus, there are power-ups that you can use to hinder each other. Definitely a fun option to add a bit of competitive spirit to a highly strategic game.
For all the attention to stunning visuals and impressive gameplay, it appears that the character development was largely ignored. There are a few references to Charlie having a crush on Brittany – something that Alph seems to continually interrupt. However, at the end of most days Brittany would use one of three comments on how much juice was left over. Whether I had five or 25 days worth of juice, she’d refer to it as “a bit of a juice buffer”. There’s more than just a buffer there! This meant that the main characters felt like a means to an end, rather than a key part of the game’s experience.